The Jackson Herald - September 8, 1999
Judges should have seen
One suspects that the ongoing controversy
between local judges and the Jackson County Board of Commissioners
is due in large part to a series of miscommunications. For that
problem, the judges are mostly to blame.
At issue is the revamping of the county's indigent defense program.
A change by the Georgia Supreme Court in March made Jackson County's
existing public defender system untenable, say the judges.
In July, the judges made a pitch to the county to create a public
defender's department to meet the new requirements. Currently,
the county does its indigent defense by contract with a local
But the county balked at the price tag for the department - an
estimated $200,000 per year. That's double the current expenditure
for indigent defense in the county.
The judges then drafted a consent order and sent it to the county,
saying, in effect, that if the county didn't agree to create
the department, the judges would enact a panel system of rotating
public defender responsibilities among local lawyers. That system
would cost even more, an estimated $300,000 per year.
With the county still refusing to create a new public defender's
department, the judges have now begun to move toward the rotating
panel system. The issue, it appears, is about to become a showdown
between the judges and the BOC.
That such a seemingly minor issue has reached this level of controversy
holds lessons for everyone who sits in a public office, to wit:
1. The judges didn't lay the groundwork for their initial request
by informing both the BOC and the public about the changes in
the indigent defense rules. Not only didn't they lay the groundwork,
they failed to clearly and completely outline the complex matter
in the early part of the budgeting process.
LESSON NUMBER 1: Don't assume everyone else knows the details
of an issue. Communicate those details clearly and far in advance
of a request for action.
2. The judges didn't anticipate that county leaders would seriously
question their request to double expenditures for indigent defense.
This should have been a no-brainer. It doesn't matter what the
state rules call for, any move that would double the cost of
the program is going to come under fire.
LESSON NUMBER 2: If a proposal is going to need increased funding,
always anticipate an initial negative response and be prepared
to deal with it. Don't go off in a huff when you don't get what
you want the first time around.
3. The judges didn't follow up on the issue properly. Sending
the consent order to the BOC only increased the tension without
resolving the matter. The legalistic consent order was like pointing
a gun at the county's head and demanding that they do what the
LESSON NUMBER 3: You seldom get the response you want by using
intimidation, threats or arm-twisting. It would have been far
better for the judges to have scheduled a follow-up meeting with
the BOC to discuss the issue rather than running to a legal document
in an effort to bully the county into action.
4. The judges didn't anticipate the public's response would go
against them. Although the judges probably looked at this matter
as just another court rule, they should have also realized that
indigent defense isn't high on the list of the public's priorities.
In fact, the public doesn't give a darn about helping defend
those accused of committing crimes.
LESSON NUMBER 4: Every issue has a political side. Anticipate
the politics of an issue and be sensitive to those concerns even
if you believe another course of action is necessary.
No one can predict the outcome of this controversy. If the state
has indeed changed the rules as the judges indicate, then the
county may have no choice but to double its funding for indigent
defense in the county.
But county leaders don't have to like it nor should they give
in without making it clear to our elected officials in Atlanta
that this emphasis on helping those accused of crimes rubs against
the grain of the public, which is more concerned with putting
offenders behind bars rather than giving them help to stay out
Our judges should have seen this controversy coming and been
better prepared to deal with the reaction. That they didn't sense
this reaction makes one wonder if the entire judicial system
isn't losing touch with the community at-large.
Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Jackson Herald
September 8, 1999
SAT results disappointing
We realize that standardized testing isn't the only way to measure
a student or school's performance. There are other factors that
weigh in the balance of what makes a school successful.
Still, we're disappointed that all three local high schools fell
below the state average in the recent SAT results. And while
local college prep students did much better than the overall
averages, even those students didn't meet the national average.
We don't suggest that our local schools should become obsessed
with the SAT or any other standardized test. But these tests
are one tool we should use to evaluate how our schools and students
For whatever reason, the class of 1999 test-takers didn't fare
too well when compared to the overall state and national results.
Let's hope this is just a minor bump in the road as we strive
to raise local academic performances.
If we as a community set high expectations, we believe most of
our students will work to measure up to that standard.
On restaurant inspections
One of the more popular news features we've done recently has
been the results of area restaurant inspections. A number of
people have commented favorably on these reports and we plan
to continue doing them.
A question we've gotten several times, however, is why all restaurants
aren't reported in each article. The answer is that inspectors
don't visit every restaurant every month. We report only what
local health department officials inspect each month.
Keep watching for these reports. It's a matter of your health.
The Jackson Herald
September 8, 1999
for vandalism at New Salem Church
I know I may be putting myself on "the spot" so to
speak; however, I must write this letter. If you publish this,
I will be forever in debt to you.
My name is Jeffery Tingle. I'm 20 years old and, since the age
of 18, I've been incarcerated in the Georgia State Prison system.
The reason for my incarceration is that on March 10, 1997, I
and two other young men broke into New Salem Baptist Church.
I was charged with "vandalism to a place of worship"
and, for my crime, I rightfully received a 20 to 30 year sentence.
The reason I'm writing this is because I wish to apologize to
the people of Jackson County. As a young man, I was full of hate
and ignorance. I did a mean and senseless deed. I pray for forgiveness
from the public of Jackson County as well as that from the Lord.
For my crime, I accept the responsibility of my sentence. I have
learned a lot in prison and I have come far from the child I
used to be. When the Lord sees fit for me to come home, I pray
Jackson County will accept me. To the county, whatever means
I must prove my conviction, I will do whatever I can for Jackson
To my family, Mom and Dad, I'm so very sorry for the pain my
ignorance brought you. You two are the best a child could ask
for; however, some children refuse to listen. Sorry.
To New Salem Baptist Church, please understand my family is truly
sorry for my actions. I'm so very sorry for my ignorance and
pray your forgiveness. I will in some way make up for those things
I did. I'm so very sorry.
To the youth of Jackson County, prison is not cool, nor are gangs,
drugs or ignorance, which all lead to prison. Please take heed
to God's word and stop the ignorance.